Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Spies on Ocracoke

During the latter half of the twentieth century I occasionally heard stories of German spies landing on the Outer Banks during World War II.

In my article about Mme. Scheu-Riesz and the 1940 & 1941 summer Artists Colony on Ocracoke (, I wrote, "Rumors circulated throughout the village suggesting that [Mme. Scheu-Riesz] and her fellow artists might be German spies. Although only a handful of islanders held this view, those closest to the artists reported that they were secretive, and reluctant to socialize with villagers. Workers at the hotel noticed that Workshop teachers and students covered their books and poems, and turned papers over whenever others approached them.

"Most of the Workshop participants enjoyed spending their days on the beach. Islander, Jake Alligood, had an old flat bed truck that he had converted to an island taxi, and he often drove them across the tidal flats to the ocean. It was not unusual for the teachers and students to walk to the beach after dark. Mme Scheu-Riesz seemed especially interested in the flashing beacons and other navigational aids, about which she asked numerous questions. She was also observed making frequent calls, by ship to shore radio, from the Coast Guard Station.

"Several island teenagers, intrigued by the exotic artists and intellectuals, and looking for adventure, decided to snoop around their quarters. They had listened to adults as they discussed the artists' unconventional behavior and different lifestyles. Connections to foreign countries, strange dress, and a degree of eccentricity had made them suspect. Could the artists really be undercover Nazi spies?

"The 'detectives' never discovered any incriminating evidence."

Read the entire article ( to learn why Mme. Scheu-Reisz and her colleagues were almost certainly not spies.

More about spies on the Outer Banks in tomorrow's blog.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here:  


  1. Anonymous8:23 AM

    Ben Bradley Dead ,93

    Your search for the truth, not just the first apparent truth but the real truth would make Ben Bradley proud. Though reading the story from 2008 made my head spin, trying to figure out how you discovered so much information as I was reading ( how does he know this?) your footnote helped.

    Anyway, I suppose people ask if there is an Artist colony because the Village Craftsman exists as an outlet to showcase the creative efforts of the artist that call OI home.

    1. Thank you. The article about the Artists Colony was great fun to research...from local sources and the Internet.